For Allison Rylant, a local 911 dispatcher, veteran and more, starting a non-profit wasn’t exactly in her plan but it is now a journey she is on and she feels it is the right thing for her.
As the founder of “Flags for the Fallen,” her mission is to get a flag on every veteran’s grave in Stephens County — for now.
“I was in the Air Force — four years active, four years inactive,” she said. “While I was in I went to Germany, I deployed to Kuwait and then I got stationed in North Dakota — that’s mission field stuff, so we’re just all over the place. My Grandpa was Army, my brother was Marines, we’ve got a family full of service members.”
Having with a friend still in the Air Force got Rylant thinking.
“I have a really good friend … he’s still in the Air Force, and he’s started started getting into a bunch of organizations, mainly the ‘Mission 22’ that helps prevent suicide in veterans,” she said. “I am a little busy to do something that I have to go out and meet people and stuff like that, so I was trying to think of something I could do where I don’t have to go out and talk to people or schedule things — something I could go and do when I have time. Something I can just do randomly.”
First, she looked at Wreaths Across America but she felt it wasn’t a good match.
“Then you have groups who put out flags for memorial day, veterans days etc. After looking at everything that is already in place it’s still kind of …’Well we’re veterans everyday, not just these certain times of the year,’” Rylant said. “That got me thinking, ‘why don’t I think of a way to get a flag on every veterans grave year round. This way they are always acknowledged and always veterans. That’s where it stemmed from. I’ve always tried to think of a way to honor my grandpa who is in Fairlawn, so this is a way to honor him and pay tribute to him as well.”
Rylant and some of her friends are hoping to get the flags out soon, starting in Comanche’s Fairlawn Cemetery as the American Legion Post has an accurate count. Also, they are creating holders for the flags made from PVC pipe donated from a Deputy.
“We’re looking at the end of the month and maybe the first weekend of October because we’ve decided for stability and to ‘get around’ the cemetery maintenance — we’re making holders,” she said. “We’ve cut about 200 of these so far and painted them. I’ve got someone who is going to vinyl our website name on them — that way when families go out to visits their veterans they can see who’s doing it.”
The week Rylant created the Facebook group, she said she got reassurance she was on the right path.
“My friends grandfather passed away and they keep a flag on his grave because of something he said: ‘Every veteran deserves at least a flag, they gave their mind, body and sometimes their lives for that flag, so the least we should do is get one on their grave,’” she said. “It really kind of struck a cord with me and that’s reason why I am doing this.”
There are a few ways people can help. Usually calls are posted on the group page and also as the project grows Rylant is hoping to create lists of all the veterans in the cemeteries in the county. She hopes this will grow to go around the world.
“Right now, we have the Facebook group and Facebook page, they are both called ‘Flags for the Fallen’ — the website is www.f4tf.org and then I am working on getting an actual ‘EIN’ to get a bank account started for this,” she said. “Eventually it will be a non-profit group, I just have to get a little bit more funds to get that started it’s about $300 to get that all started.”